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Solve woes at home before aiding Rohingyas: Indonesian minority groups

Members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin and the Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches (HKBP) Filadelfia stage a rally in front of the State Palace in Jakarta to show solidarity toward the plight of Muslim Rohingyas in southern Myanmar. The protesters call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to solve the violations of the rights of minority groups in the country before helping to solve the conflict in Myanmar. Wendra Ajistyatama/The Jakarta Post

Publication Date : 06-08-2012

 

Persecuted Christians in Indonesia say the government should resolve their problems here at home before intervening in the conflict involving the minority Muslim Rohingyas community in Myanmar.

The spokesman of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor, West Java, Bona Sigalingging, said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needed to solve problems plaguing local religious minorities before he could win support for international initiatives for the Rohingya.

"The public won't have any doubts about Indonesia's capability as one of the biggest countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [Asean] to help solve the conflict, if the government manages to clean up its record on solving violations against minority groups, as has happened to our church," Sigalingging said yesterday.

Just recently, Yudhoyono made an official statement supporting the actions of the Myanmarese government in dealing with the Rohingya saga.

Yudhoyono said that Myanmar had done its best to handle long-standing tensions between ethnic Rakhines and Rohingyas.

Yudhoyono added that the government of Myanmar had done whatever was necessary to settle the conflict, diplomatically and through international forums such as Asean, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the United Nations.

The President also said that he had prepared a letter for Myanmar President Thein Sein expressing Indonesia's hopes for Myanmar's government to settle the ethnic issue.

Separately, Rev. Palti Panjaitan the leader of the HKBP Filadelfia Batak Protestant church in Bekasi, West Java, said members of his beleaguered congregation were disappointed that the President gave more attention to the plight of citizens of other countries than to helping citizens in Indonesia.

"It's as if your father takes care of other people’s children but not his own," he said.

Panjaitan said that government’s statements on the plight of the Rohingya issue was part of a public relations campaign designed to impress the international community.

In reality, according to Panjaitan, the government has been hesitant to intervene in resolving the persecution of minority Christian groups in Indonesia.

"It's a matter of whether the government wants to resolve the problem," Panjaitan said.

The plight that befell Rohingya was no different than what has happened to minority groups in Indonesia, he said.

Members of GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia rallied in front of the State Palace in Jakarta yesterday to remind the government about the unresolved violations of the religious freedom of minority groups in the country.

Nothing has been done so far to follow up on the government-brokered deal between GKI Yasmin and the Bogor administration to end a long standoff between irate Muslim members of the local community who refused to allow the Christians to hold Sunday service in their church.

The congregation was authorised to operate its church if a mosque was built nearby. Members of GKI Yasmin, however, have continued to be barred from holding Sunday services.

Members of the HKBP Filadelfia have been subject to harassment from neighbours who closed their church in downtown Bekasi, West Java.

The Bekasi regency administration sealed off the church in 2010 after local residents objected to its construction. While the Bandung State Administrative Court ruled in favor of HKBP Filadelfia and ordered the church reopened, the local administration has yet to comply.

Separately, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali urged Muslims and Buddhists in the country to maintain good relationships, in spite of the conflict between the Muslim Rohingyas and the Buddhist Rakhines in Myanmar.

Ali said during a speech at the Ekayana Arama Indonesian Buddhist Centre that he hoped the persecution of the Rohingyas would not prompt local Muslims to hate Buddhists.

"I just hope that what happened in Myanmar will not spread to Indonesia," he said as quoted by Antara.

 

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